RURAL AT RISK: The map depicts the average Susceptibility Index risk score per postcode. A higher score indicates a greater chance of severe illness/death, which is indicated by darker red on the map.
RURAL AT RISK: The map depicts the average Susceptibility Index risk score per postcode. A higher score indicates a greater chance of severe illness/death, which is indicated by darker red on the map.

REVEALED: Southern Downs region highly vulnerable to virus

THE small rural communities of the Southern and Western Downs have shown they could be among the worst hit in the state if a coronavirus outbreak occurred.

New data modelling by Australian actuarial firm, Finity, in partnership with the School of Risk and Actuarial Studies at UNSW, reveals how vulnerable individual postcodes are of the deadly virus.

The modelling ranks regions with a score between 1 and 100; the higher the score, the more vulnerable residents will be to a COVID-19 cluster, with ranking based on health indicators such as age, cancer, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

While Warwick itself scored moderately well at 66, neighbouring figures were much more alarmingly.

Killarney scored in the upper percentile at 93, as did Cottonvale at 97.

However, most concerning was the consistently high percentile for many towns in the Goondiwindi Region.

Inglewood scored 88, Texas at 97 and Yelaborn at a shockingly high 99.

The only other towns in Queensland to score similarly to Yelaborn were Nanango, Hivesville and Winton.

Texas resident Amanda Croft said the results weren’t surprisingly for the region, given its elderly population, but did reiterate the need for strict adherence to social distancing.

“Our population is definitely an older population and most have got something wrong with them whether that’s cardio, lungs, whatever and that’s what data is taken from,” she said.

“I don’t know whether the older population have seen the study but if they’re not already concerned, maybe they should be shown it to make them realise the seriousness.

“A lot of people, particularly the older community think if they get it they can get flown out but we don’t have the facilities here to deal with someone who does catch it.”

A Queensland Health spokesperson said it should be noted that the index did not look at infection rates or transmission, and that general speaking, regional communities had older populations which attributed to the results.

“Older people and those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to developing serious illness if infected with COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.

“It is important to note that the majority of Queensland cases had recently travelled overseas or had close contact with a confirmed case, such as their partner or flatmate.

“To date, there have been no COVID-19 cases in the rural and regional Hospital and Health Service regions of North West, South West, Torres and Cape and Central West.

“Queensland Health has strategies in place to ensure we are well prepared for all COVID-19 scenarios aligned with our interstate and federal counterparts.”

Like Ms Croft, Finity Principal and lead researcher Aaron Cutter believed the Susceptibility Index could help direct funding to rural and at-risk communities.

“When a vaccine becomes available, the index could be used to prioritise those more vulnerable communities,” Mr Cutter told news.com.au.

“We want to put as much relevant info in front of the policy makers as we can.”

Mr Cutter confirmed to news.com.au that the Department of Health had reached out to Finity to use their Susceptibility Index.

Visit the COVID-19 Susceptibility Index here.

POSTCODE RISK SCORE PERCENTILE
Clifton- 436186
Allora – 436285
Leyburn – 436569
Warwick – 4370 66
Yangan – 437165
Killarney- 437393
Dalveen – 437483
Cottonvale – 437597
The Summit – 437783
Applethorpe 437865
Stanthorpe – 438091
Glen Aplin – 438148
Ballandean- 438291
Wallangarra- 438391
Texas – 438597
Inglewood- 438788
Yelaborn – 438899
Goondiwindi – 4390 78

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